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Love in The Sun Also Rises
In the novel The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway describes a couple who share a very strange and distant kind of love for each other. This story takes place immediately after World War I, a time of great hardship. This hardship results in a digression of values both morally and socially. The love that Brett and Jake share is symbolic of the general decline in values in that they tolerate behaviors in one another that would have been previously considered unacceptable.
It is clear that Lady Brett Ashley is anything but a lady. She is kind and sweet but extremely vulnerable to the charm that various men in her life seem to smother her with. Brett is not happy with her life or her surroundings and seeks escape and refuge in the arms of these men. But her actions seem always to end up hurting her, and she runs back to Jake. Jake knows that he will never be able to have her for his own, and he accepts this as fact. This is clear when the Count asks them “why don’t you get married, you two? (68)” To this question, they give a lame half hearted answer which implies that it will never happen. He is tolerant of her behavior because he loves her unconditionally and is willing to overlook everything she does. Jake’s willingness to endure and forgive Brett¹s promiscuity and infidelity is an indication of the skewed values of the age. It was an ³anything goes² era right after the first war, and Jake’s message to Brett seems to be the same: anything goes as long as you eventually come back to me.
Jake is forced to accept living in this seemingly terrible way for more than one reason. He a weak person socially, but he is also physically disabled because of an injury that he suffered during the war. He suffered an injury that caused him to be castrated. The first hint of this is when he says to Georgeette “I was hurt in the war” (24) in refrence to why they can not have physical realtions. This injury is one that makes him insecure, but worse than that, it allows Brett to have almost complete control over him. Jake and Brett need each other emotionally, but Brett feels that she needs more.
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Jake’s feelings toward his friend Robert Cohn are a combination jealousy, compassion, understanding, and hate. These are a very unusual group of feelings for a person to have toward one person, but it was a very unusual time. Jake knew of Robert’s
relationship with Brett, and it ate him up with envy, but at the same time he knew how it had ended. He had been close friends with Robert, and had been through a similar situation with Brett, so he had both compassion and understanding for Robert¹s position. The only problem was the way Robert choose to deal with his feelings. Robert also could not stand to see Brett with another man, but he displayed this much differently. Robert¹s
presense bothered Jake even though they had been close friends. Robert backs out of a fishing trip to find Brett, and Jake¹s friend makes a comment about that being a good thing. Jake¹s only reply is “You¹re damn right”(108). Robert makes a fool out of himself. He even beats up Jake at one point. Behavior like this was impossible for Jake to respect and he hated this part of Robert. None of this would have even been a problem if life during that time had been a little more solid in a moral sense. Brett would have not been permitted to act the way she did, while mantaining her social status, which clearly meant a great deal to her. She would have had to choose, and most likely her choice would have been that of a more chaste lifestyle.
In this story, there is a very different way of life from what people know today. The relationship that Jake and Brett share is one that would seem completely unrealistic in today¹s time, but to them, it was acceptable. Jake no doubt would have preferred to have it differently, but he is accepting of the way it stands. The hardship and the poverty that is so widely spread in that area during the post war time causes the people to lower their moral standards. Jake and Brett¹s love is the perfect example.